Paul Julien Freed's
Impactful Visual Creations
By Carin Chea
Fine artist Paul Julien Freed doesn't just sketch or paint; he creates visceral experiences. I had the pleasure of speaking with the Brooklyn-born artist. He has described his work as a narrative through color and dynamism... an extension of his impactful history, both in a personal sense and by way of his professional background in film and photography.
Having thoroughly stalked his body of work online, I was admittedly nervous. Paul's artwork had me laughing, then crying, which evolved into ugly-face-crying, as a dam of unexpected emotions tumbled through my psyche. What do you ask someone who has the ability to make you feel this way, and all without one single word?
How did your career as a visual artist come about?
I started out in film. I shot animation for commercials on an animation stand, and then decided I wanted to learn editing. So I took a job at a trailer house. Putting trailers and TV ads together is an editing function.
Eventually, I had my own trailer company, and was asked at one point to edit someone's feature film. I spent the next number of years editing features, TV movies and series.
But, after the turn of the century, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that only 40 people (worldwide) had. That short circuited what I was doing, professionally. Following my fourth surgery, in 2013, I'd lost all ability to focus and turned to painting as a way to regain that focus and reclaim my life.
When I'm painting, I'm in the moment, free of a particular outcome or being sick. I've always been a visual person but I was surprised at how quickly my work evolved. I was showing within a year, mostly in group shows.
Do you have a muse?
Yes. The woman in the Chateau painting is a dear friend and as close to a muse as I have. When the idea for Chateau fully crystalized I immediately thought of her. She had the exact physical and spiritual essence that I wanted for this particular painting. The perspective and mystery of Chateau, the building and the woman in the painting, is what drew me to the subject.
What was it about the moonlight and the way it hit the chateau that caused her to stand up and open the curtain? What was she feeling and thinking? My friend and I have talked about working together again. Right now I'm looking for other unique architectural structures in LA in which to place her.
Is there one (or several) pieces of art from your collection that you feel especially connected to?
One painting that everyone seems to gravitate to is Mother and Children. It's an acrylic painting, 24" by 18", and for some reason, everybody mentions that painting first.
Well, personally, Black Pearl is my favorite.
Well, it's one of my favorites too. The only reason I title my paintings are for marketing purposes. If I could, I would want people to look at my paintings without knowing any of its background. Like you just did.
I was transfixed with Deathbed because I've also served as a hospice care social worker. I have to say: This image was spot on.
That means a lot to me. Thank you.
That's my father in the painting, right after he passed. I was with him at that moment and sketched him while I sat there, and this is what came of it. He was actually in hospice care when he passed. It was a very peaceful death. He was 99 years old.
Tell me about your upcoming exhibit at the Chateau Marmont.
The centerpiece of my solo show, along with 15 to 20 pieces curated from my other work, is the 60" by 48" painting called Chateau, which is modeled after the Chateau Marmont. When my wife and I got back to LA in 2011, we were living at the Chateau Marmont, where we've stayed on and off since the 1980s. We have a special affinity for the place and with the people who work there.
One night, we were walking our two dogs up into the Hollywood Hills, and when I looked back, I saw the distinct image of the building illuminated by a full moon, and I took a photo with my phone. That was the beginning of the idea for Chateau.
The inspiration for this painting came from the Impressionist artist Gustave Caillebotte. His most famous works are Paris Street, Rainy Day, The Floor Scrapers, and The Pont De L'Europe, which all date to the 1870s. What attracted me to him was his instinctive understanding of photographic technique: cropping, perspective, and deep focus, which wasn't used in film and photography for another seventy years.
Caillebotte painted people in rooms looking out at the new Paris. His portraits of people contemplating something inside the painting, admiring the same thing as the artist and the viewer inspired Chateau and the paintings I'm planning for the near future.
My show will be exhibited in a suite, essentially an apartment, at the Hotel. This holds great historical significance for me. In the 1870s, the Impressionists, Monet, Renoir, Degas, etc., were not recognized by the mainstream art world and, therefore, were not, at that time, welcome to exhibit in galleries. Gustave Caillebotte organized, as well as exhibited at the Salon of 1876, which was held in an apartment in Paris.
My hope for the show is that people will be able to see (through my paintings) the emotion that I feel and try to express through these paintings. With whatever time I have left - and I plan on being around for a long time - my aim is to create something that will resonate long after I'm gone and in some small way contribute to moving the human condition forward in a positive way. If I'm able to accomplish that, I will leave here a happy man.
If you could go back in time, who would you like to collaborate with as an artist?
Obviously the early Gustav Caillebotte. I would also have loved to meet Egon Schiele. He was an Austrian painter who painted, in the early 20th century, amongst other things, quirky, revealing portraits.
I would have loved to meet Picasso, but who knows? [Laughing] A friend once took me to a recording session for a TV show. Miles Davis had just started playing again. When the taping was done, my friend said, "Would you like to meet him?" I said "No. I wouldn't know what to say to him." It was enough to hear him play.
If you had to choose one medium to work with for the next 6 months, what would it be and why?
The next thing I'm headed toward in my work is sculpture. I know very little about it right now, but I want to become as prolific and proficient in sculpture as I am becoming in painting. Someone like Picasso was so prolific, in part, because he didn't limit himself to any one medium. That's how I feel. I want to do everything, eventually.
If your artwork were to take human form, and they had to describe you in one sentence, what do you think they would say?
Let me think about this a second. It's an interesting question. I don't want to spew words at you.
Would they say: "That Paul, he's a cool dude with great shoes."
I don't think I'd ever say that about myself. [Laughing] I can only answer it this way: I'm a figurative painter interested in creating narratives that reach beyond the confines of a frame.
Visually, I work on revealing layers of the physical world in order to expose how frail and arbitrary life can seem. Once you've been seriously ill, you understand how precious time becomes, and how immediate an experience it is to realize your intention on canvas. It becomes all important. It's like, "I HAVE to say this correctly, because I may not have another chance to say it."
You can admire, delight-in, and/or ugly-cry at Paul Julien Freed's work at www.PJFreed.com.
Mr. Freed's impactful artwork recently exhibited for an intimate viewing at the Chateau Marmont. You will have many opportunities to experience Mr. Freed's creations, as this abounding artist will definitely be showcasing more of his established (and up-and-coming) creations in the future.
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